New arts group lobbying council to put brakes on redevelopment of former Kelowna RCMP site | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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New arts group lobbying council to put brakes on redevelopment of former Kelowna RCMP site

A new group wants to explore ideas for a new Kelowna Community Theatre before adjoining land is redeveloped.
November 21, 2019 - 11:35 AM

A core group of arts lovers is pushing for Kelowna city council to reconsider its plans for a high-rise tower on the former RCMP site on Doyle Avenue.

They're concerned that the redevelopment plans may limit what can be done to replace the Kelowna Community Theatre because there won't be enough land left over.

“If this (new theatre) is going to be the centre point of the cultural district, it’s something we should have been focused on a long time ago, before we went into all these mixed-use buildings,” Len McFarlane, spokesman for the group, told iNFOnews.ca. “It’s going to turn into a concrete jungle.”

McFarlane is the vice-president of the Kelowna Community Concert Association. The new lobby group is deliberately being kept small at this point and consists of concert association president Betty Skilbeck, former Kelowna Community Theatre manager Randy Zahara and former Kelowna mayor Sharon Shepherd.

It’s not associated with the Kelowna Legacy Group, which earlier this year held a press conference asking the City to put a hold on the redevelopment project.

The City is in the process of reviewing proposals to build a high-rise residential tower on part of the former RCMP site. It commissioned a report that showed the rest of the land, combined with the existing land the community theatre sits on, is big enough for a 1,200-seat performing arts centre along with a 250-seat studio theatre with adequate space for a lobby and dressing rooms.

“It almost seems that they hired somebody to justify their decision to keep the footprint the way it is,” McFarlane said.

While a new community theatre is in the City’s 10-year capital plan it’s not a high priority and there has been no work done on actually designing a building.

McFarlane said there should first be a discussion on what kind of facility the arts community needs. For example, Kamloops is going to referendum next spring on its performing arts centre that will have three theatres in it.

Until there is some agreement in Kelowna on what kind of facility is needed here, the RCMP land should be preserved in case it’s needed, he said.

The group, which does not have a name, sent a letter to council on Nov. 9 but has only received responses from three of them, two of whom have agreed to meet with committee members next week.

McFarlane sent a capsulized version of the letter to iNFOnews.ca. This is what is says:

Our committee has a vested interest in a performing arts centre for Kelowna that will meet the cultural needs for a growing and diverse population. We are particularly concerned with a potential inadequacy of the allotted footprint for this future venue that the 350 Doyle RFP (Request For Proposals) has presented.

We are coming from a position of having no opportunity to participate in a collaborative review of the arts facility’s feasibility study report, which has left us in the dark regarding several components that are essential for a major cultural space of this magnitude.

The Central Okanagan is blessed with an extensive network of experienced professionals in all factors of the performing arts community including education, tourism, business and government who could play an effective role in these discussions. An open dialogue of this kind will lead to a better buy-in for all parties and lead us to a well-considered facility for the City of Kelowna’s Cultural District.

We are therefore encouraging City council to direct City staff to postpone any decision on the 350 Doyle RFP until arrangements can be made for a more cooperative stakeholders’ review.


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